Is there a Latin idiom, preferably one that was in currency in the classical period, that expresses the speaker's suspicion that something pertinent is being maliciously concealed from him?

For concreteness, in English the idiom might be, "I smell a rat" or "something about this smells fishy".

Probably a direct translation is not going to work; for instance to translate this into French we might say "y avoir anguille sous roche" (literally, "there's an eel under the rock").

I did have a look through Perseus for words like "fishy" and "rat", but it seems that none of the famous translators of Latin literature wanted to use such a base idiom.


1 Answer 1


sŭbŏleo, -ēre (‘sub’ = a hint, a trace) to catch a whiff, to suspect. Plautus twice: referring to a wife, and later to the man under suspicion.

Possibly the idiomatic answer is to refer to a well known example of suspicion: Hippolytus or Cassandra; or to this or another Fable. http://mythfolklore.net/aesopica/phaedrus/310.htm

Piscosus, fishy, is no use in this case. It means that [the river] is brim full of fish.

  • 4
    For what it's worth, the derived verb subodorare is currently used with the same meaning in Italian. Jan 28, 2017 at 19:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.